Floodwaters poured into more than 40 homes in two north Oklahoma City neighborhoods Monday morning, prompting a massive evacuation effort involving boats, personal watercraft and more than a dozen Oklahoma City firefighters.
Firefighters rescued 34 people and 13 dogs from The Valley neighborhood near 172nd and Western Avenue, where a torrential downpour caused a creek to overflow its banks beginning about 9 a.m., according to Maj. Russell Burkhalter of the Oklahoma City Fire Department.
Similar flooding occurred in the Palo Verde neighborhood just north of 178th and Western, where 11 to 13 people were rescued by flat-bottomed boats.
Floodwaters rose as high as windowsills and knocked down fences and basketball goals in the Palo Verde neighborhood and got as high as two feet from the tops of some garages in The Valley neighborhood, firefighters said.
Burkhalter said more than 30 homes were flooded in The Valley, while Jim Holman, president of the Palo Verde Homeowners Association, estimated 12 homes were flooded there. No injuries were reported, but rescuers had to use an air mattress to float a bed-ridden man out of the Palo Verde neighborhood, officials said.
Residents said the waters rose rapidly and caught them by surprise.
Quinten Cheadle of 17301 Sunny Hollow Road in The Valley said he was at work about 9 a.m. when his wife called to say water was getting into the house.
"And then when she called and said the mailboxes were under water — that was when I knew I needed to come home,” Cheadle said. "I parked up the hill and waded through the water. It exhausted me. Finally I got home and everything in the house was floating. I'm very thankful no one got hurt. We had some good neighbors that helped us out.”
In the same neighborhood, Destine O'Brien, 16, of 17321 Sun River Court was home alone when she awoke to find water was already in the home and up to her ankles. The water rose quickly and she was trapped, so she called her parents. Her father, Jeff O'Brien, drove home to save her.
"I was just going to go in to get her, but the water was moving so swift, it looked like it wouldn't be a good idea,” he said.
Destine stayed in the house until around noon when firefighters arrived with a boat to take her to safety.
"Everything else can be replaced, but we were just worried about her,” her father said. "It's good to have her back.”
Paralea Scouten, of 17328 Sun River Court, said she initially tried to stop the floodwaters with towels, but realized that wasn't working when she saw the current running through her living room.
"A shoe would go by and I would grab it,” she said. "I had plans to retire in July. I might have to postpone.”
James Reid, whose home at 17309 Sun River Court backs up to the creek, said he woke up Monday and began watching the rise of the creek in his backyard.
"I didn't think it was going to get in the house and all of a sudden it was coming in the front door, not the back,” he said.
"All the contents are damaged. The wood floor is buckled and the carpet floated up.”
Reid said he called his insurance company, only to discover he didn't have flood insurance.
"It's going to be at our expense,” he said. "Only our cars are covered, and they're damaged, too. I had a box of family pictures I've been meaning for a long time to get in an album and those got soaked, but we're all OK here. We're all going to make it.”
Next door, at 17313 Sun River Court, Charles Hill of Idabel said he was caring for his young granddaughter, Grace, while his daughter and son-in-law were vacationing in Mexico.
"We got 17 inches of water inside this house here,” he said. "The total downstairs is nothing but muddy water.”
Hill said he tried to carry what he could upstairs, but the water came up too fast.
"I'm taking the baby and we're heading back to Idabel,” he said.
Hill said his daughter and son-in-law plan to finish their vacation. When they return, Hill said he will return with the baby to help clean.
Neighbors John Hiser and Beth Turner of 17317 and 17401 Sunny Hollow Road, respectively, said they were stunned at how quickly the waters rose.
Hiser said the water was up to his knees when he started trying to get his three dogs and two cats out of his house and up to his waist a few minutes later when he finally succeeded in slipping them out a side door.
"I couldn't go out the front door. I couldn't go out the back because it was rushing too hard,” he said. "The water coming through there was like nothing I had ever seen before. We moved to Oklahoma 21/2 years ago. The only thing I ever worried about was tornadoes. ... Never in a million years did I think I would be worrying about a flood in this neighborhood.”
Hiser was upset to find a crate of his tools missing, apparently stolen after the floodwaters subsided.
Trish Kuper, whose children were at vacation Bible school when the flood hit, said she rushed to her Palo Verde subdivision home and broke into her house to save her dog.
"She was on my bed and I thought she was dead,” said Kuper.
Holman, the neighborhood president, said he witnessed Kuper's dash to save her dog.
"She had that motherly instinct in her eyes,” Holman said. "I would have hated to get in her way.”
CONTRIBUTING: STAFF WRITERS DAVID HERTZ, TARIQ LEE and JORDON SHINN